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How to Talk to Your Tween

Until she was 11, Hannah Scanlon was a laid-back kid, able to take her parents' good-natured ribbing with a smile or a shrug. No longer, says her mom, Jennifer, of Rockville, MD. A year later, Hannah is more likely to stomp upstairs and stew.

Is it the usual suspect—hormonesthat accounts for this touchiness? Partly. But teasing is also a way that tweens put each other down, says Linda Sonna, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of The Everything Tween Book. So after a difficult day, even a playful comment from you can make your already sensitive kid think no one accepts her.

Still, you can't stifle yourself for the next, oh, ten years. Instead, try this:

Apologize right away

Scanlon makes it clear to Hannah that she didn't intend to hurt her feelings.

Seek the real cause 

Say, "Normally this comment makes you laugh, so why does it upset you today?" Maybe she'll tell you this is the third time somebody's teased her about her favorite shirt, and now she hates it. Even if she can't answer right away, she'll start thinking about the reason, says Sonna.

Teach her to handle it 

Your kid is going to get razzed, so she can't always fall apart. Encourage her to tell you when you've stomped on her feelings. If she can say it to you, she'll eventually be able to say it to her pals. She'll also learn to tell a good friend's unintentionally hurtful remark from a bad one's mean gibe.